China and Africa: Policy and Challenges



China and Africa: Policy and Challenges
China and Africa: Policy and
Li Anshan
Fifteen years ago, in an article entitled “China and Africa,” Gerald Segal predicted that China, as a rising global power, would be more important to Africa
than vice versa – he even surmised that Africa would be the region of least importance to China’s foreign policy.1 A look at current Sino-African relations clearly
refutes Segal’s prophesies. In fact, Africa is very important to China. In January
2006, China’s African Policy, the white paper promulgated by the Chinese government was the first of its kind in China’s diplomatic history with Africa. This
document embodies a comprehensive and long-term plan for enhanced cooperation in Sino-Africa relations, and it marks a milestone in the progress that China
and Africa have made together.
A popular perception in the international community is that the recent rapid
developments of the Sino-African relationship have arisen after a long, dormant
period, revealing China’s new and potentially unsettling ambitions in Africa.
Many Western scholars opine that China neglected Africa in practice in the past
Li Anshan is professor at the School of International Studies, Peking University and the associate director of the Chinese Society for African History Studies. He has published Research
of African Nationalism as well as other books.
China Security, Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007, pp. 69 - 93
2007 World Security Institute
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Policy and Challenges
30 years, and that its recent comprehensive engagement with the region not only
reflects a set of ambitious and unsettling goals on the continent but that a competitive quest for energy, trade and geopolitical interests will underscore that
Such viewpoints stress practical aspects of China’s policy toward Africa, but
fail to convey the most important element in Sino-African relations: that the development of the relationship over the past 50 years has been based on “equal
treatment, respect for sovereignty and common development.”3 Despite many
shifts in the interactions between China and Africa, certain principles have remained constant, underpinning the relationship. To accurately judge China’s
strategic considerations in the Sino-Africa relationship, it is important to understand both aspects of continuity and change in China’s policy towards Africa.
Sino-African Relations are not new – dating back to ancient times and progressing gradually based on common historical experiences.4 However, it wasn’t
until 1956, when Egypt became the first African nation to establish diplomatic
relations with the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.), that inter-governmental
relations between the P.R.C. and African countries were inaugurated. Over the
subsequent half-century, the trajectory of Sino-African relations went through
several fundamental shifts.
Ideological Beginnings
From the establishment of the P.R.C. to its economic opening (1949-1978),
China’s Africa policy was heavily influenced by ideology. During this period,
China’s foreign policy was deeply impacted by the unique international environment of the time.5 China placed itself on the front line of the struggle against
colonialism, imperialism and revisionism in the Third World.6 By linking its ideological stand with its foreign policy, China’s diplomacy in Africa was initially
circumscribed by Beijing’s ideological position.7 In the wake of the Sino-Soviet
split in the 1960s, China accused the pro-Soviet communist parties in various
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Li Anshan
African countries of “revisionism,” regarding them as ideological rivals. Based on
this political bias, China refused requests by some African nations to establish
diplomatic relations.8 All ties between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and
pro-Soviet political parties in Africa were severed.
Although the political atmosphere dramatically changed in China during the
mid-1960s, a dogmatic approach was maintained in relations with Africa. At the
beginning of the Cultural Revolution, China’s diplomacy was affected by an ultra-leftist mentality. Some scholars have described
China’s aims in Africa at that time as promoting
Maoism.9 The slogan “exporting revolution” became the primary objective toward Africa, which
China sought Africa as an
ally in its struggles against
imperialism and hegemony.
was challenged by African countries on the receiving end. This campaign threatened the power and position of many African
governments and deviated from the principle of “non-interference in internal affairs.”10 Thus, only a handful of groups in Africa (for example the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party) sustained contact with the CPC. In the end of 1960s,
China ended its policy of “exporting revolution” and started to provide more aid
to Africa that was “free and unconditional.” As a result, the broad-based relationship between China and Africa gradually recovered.11
Using free aid as the basis to build bilateral relations was an approach largely
formulated in 1963-64, when Premier Zhou Enlai visited Africa and proposed the
Five Principles Governing the Development of Relations with Arab and African Countries and
the Eight Principles of Economic Assistance.12 During this period, China supported the
political struggles for African independence as well as provided some free aid to
Africa.13 It was a time when China also helped African countries build a number
of landmark structures (e.g. stadiums, hospitals, conference centers) – projects
that were more than just bricks and mortar constructions – that were national
symbols of independence and embodied the spirit of cultural decolonization.14
These China-supported projects played an important role in the formation of
African nationhood.15 Despite very high economic costs, these projects provided
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important assistance to African countries in need of moral support, and also resulted in positive impressions of China in the minds of the African people, laying
a solid foundation for the path ahead in Sino-African relations.16 By 1978, China
had established diplomatic relations with 43 African countries.
The end of the Cultural Revolution marked a shift in China’s policy toward
Africa from one based almost exclusively on ideological alliance to one with a far
more pragmatic and diversified approach.
With a new political direction and the uncertainty of economic development
in China, the period from 1979-1982 saw a temporary fluctuation in Sino-African
relations: economic aid was reduced, accompanied by a decline in bilateral trade
and a drop in the number of mission medical teams.17 The 12th CPC National Assembly in 1982 officially marked a shift from a policy that emphasized “war and
revolution” to one emphasizing “peace and development.” Likewise, China shifted from policies that emphasized that “economy serves diplomacy” to policies
based on “diplomacy serves the economy.” In the same year, the Chinese premier
visited Africa and announced the Four Principles on Economic and Technological Cooperation with Africa.18 This shifted the focus to practical effectiveness in assistance
and in relations more generally, as well as to a spirit of “developing together.”
The 12th CPC Assembly decided on two strategic elements that had implications for China’s policy toward Africa: the first that the country would emphasize Chinese domestic economic development; and the second that China would
pursue a peaceful and independent foreign policy.19 These were relevant to Africa
in that China sought to bring the relationship down to earth and base it on very
practical goals that were within its means. The 12th CPC National Assembly established principles for a new type of interstate political relationship based on
“Independence, Complete Equality, Mutual Respect, Non-interference in Others’
Internal Affairs.”20 Such shifts led to party-to-party relations between the CPC
and numerous African governments of various stripes, gave great impetus for the
development of its relations with Africa and represented a breakthrough in the
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Li Anshan
diplomatic history of the P.R.C. Sino-African inter-party relations ensured that
the two sides maintained a steady keel despite the numerous political transitions
of African governments. By 2002, the CPC had established relations with more
than 60 political parties in 40 Sub-Saharan countries, which included both ruling and non-ruling parties.21 Relations based on these principles have convinced
many Africans of China’s sincerity in respecting African political choices and
helping to promote economic and trade cooperation.22
This new direction also shifted China’s focus to “economic co-development”
in its work with Africa. Therefore more extensive cooperation took place on far
more diverse levels than previously.
From 1949 to 1978, China’s policy toward Africa focused mainly on politics,
fully supporting the independence movements in Africa, which went beyond
mere moral support and extended to the provision of weapons and human assistance to cultivate military and political power for the movement.23 Following the
wave of national independence throughout
most of Africa, China sought Africa as an
ally in its struggles against imperialism and
hegemony.24 During these times of political
The CPC established relations with
ruling and non-ruling parties in 40
sub-Saharan nations.
orientation, economic aid was provided to
Africa gratis even though China’s own domestic economic circumstances were
far from optimal. Despite the Soviet Union supplying more arms than other nation to Africa during the 1970s, its economic aid to the continent was far behind
that of China.25 In short, relations were narrow in scope and without a practical
or sustainable basis.
China’s new approach, however, expanded its relations with Africa in many
ways, including enhanced economic and trade cooperation, cultural and educational exchange, medical and public health, military exchange and non-governmental communications.26
Spirit of Co-development
Another noteworthy shift in China’s African policy was the change from pro-
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viding aid for free to aid intended to benefit both sides economically.
From 1956 to 1978, China aided Africa with billions of dollars despite the fact
that China’s own economic situation was precarious. History has shown that aid
alone is unlikely to significantly transform the reality of African poverty.27 Thus,
in the 1980s, China attuned its economic assistance to Africa by attempting to
help Africa help itself. Improving Africa’s ability to self-develop was seen to be
more useful than free economic aid. China also began to explore reforming its
foreign trade system and its approaches to foreign aid. Economic assistance began to include other forms of support such as preferential and discounted loans,
cooperatives and joint ventures for projects in Africa.28 Cooperatives and joint
ventures helped to bring new technology and management practices to projects
in Africa, while preferential loans pressed African nations to use money effectively.29 Sixteen African countries benefited from such initiatives during the first
two years of China’s new aid policy.30 Such shifts were, however, not a retreat by
China from its commitment to relations with Africa. On the contrary, it sped up
and expanded economic cooperation between the two sides.
Since diplomatic relations were first established in 1956, China’s African policy has shifted from an unsustainable and ideologically-motivated approach, to
political pragmatism and on to the present relationship based on economic pragmatism. While these shifts have markedly changed Sino-African relations over
the past 50 years, another look reveals the persistence of core principles that
continue to underpin the relationship.
Policies Change, Not Principles
Principles of equal treatment, a respect for sovereignty, noninterference, mutual benefit and co-development have endured. China is highly sensitized to notions of sovereignty and equality among nations. This is largely due to the fact that
violations of China’s sovereignty by other major powers and the intervention of
outside powers into China’s internal affairs have been salient diplomatic threats
since the foundation of the P.R.C.31 Past experience has led China’s foreign policy
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Li Anshan
to embrace a principle of “noninterference” in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries. This principle emphasizes sovereignty as the common denominator among all nations regardless of other factors, and fundamentally holds that all
countries should be equal and no country has the right to dictate the sovereign
affairs of others.
This principle of noninterference has served to safeguard China’s own sovereign rights. Take human rights as an example. The West is inclined to believe
that human rights have historically arisen from a need to protect citizens from
abuse by the state, which might suggest that all
nations have a duty to intervene and protect people wherever they are. But the developing countries, including China and most African nations,
The principle of noninterference
has served to safeguard China’s
own sovereign rights.
argue that state sovereignty is paramount, not
least because the human rights protection regime is a state-based mechanism. A
noninterference principle holds that human rights should not be a reason for one
country to interfere in another’s internal affairs.32 By holding to this principle,
China can both ensure its own sovereignty and gain the trust of African nations.
Over the past decade, human rights proposals against China were defeated 11
times at the United Nations. Without African nations’ support, China could not
have defeated those proposals.
Both China and Africa have suffered the ill-effects of the colonial era. This
shared experience underlies the ideas of equality and respect for sovereignty that
each highlight in their approach to international relations. For example, China
shares the position of noninterference with the African Union on the Zimbabwean issue. In 2005, when Robert Mugabe demolished countless urban dwellings
in an attempt to crack down on illegal shantytowns in Harare, Britain and the
United States called on the African Union to act. However the African Union felt
that it wasn’t appropriate for the African Union Commission to start running the
internal affairs of member-states and gave Mugabe its blessing to resist sanctions
imposed by the West.33
In the context of Darfur, there is debate among the international community
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over whether or not the situation there should be described as “genocide,” invoking a responsibility on the part of the international community to protect
the people there. The United States was the only major player to describe the
conflict as “genocide,” neither the United Nations nor regional organizations use
this term to describe that complex issue.34 While the situation in Darfur is complicated, China and Africa share the view that different countries are in different
stages of development and it is neither fair nor effective to use the standard of
developed countries to judge the situation of developing countries. This foreign
policy approach has remained unchanged since the beginning of Sino-African relations.
But the principle of noninterference is not absolute to the African Union.
When joining the African Union, all members agreed on the aim of bringing an
end to intra-African conflict. In Sierra Leone and Liberia the African Union has
stepped in to halt humanitarian disasters. In Togo and Mauritania, the African
Union intervened in support of democracy. China respects the African Union’s
principles and the goal to end conflict on the continent, but views itself as having
no right to intervene in the domestic affairs of African countries as an outsider.
And though there are many critics of China’s absolute adherence to the principle of noninterference, even in the face of human rights violations and political corruption in African countries,35 China does not consider itself qualified to
make judgments on the domestic affairs of African countries and considers the
African Union more qualified to do so. China’s policy of noninterference does
not equate to ignoring humanitarian disasters, rather that China respects the
sovereignty of nations and acknowledges its limits in solving such a crisis. In
diplomatic discussions with African nations, China does make suggestions on
issues of governance and intra-state affairs. What distinguishes Chinese suggestions from Western interventions is that they are provided in a friendly rather
than coercive manner.
On the issue of Darfur, China has consistently opposed economic sanctions
on Sudan.36 China believes the Darfur issue is an issue related to development,
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Li Anshan
where sanctions would only bring more trouble to the region, especially in light
of a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 2007 report that states:
“Environmental degradation, as well as regional climate instability and change,
are major underlying causes of food insecurity and conflict in Darfur.”37 Since
the Darfur issue is a conflict between different Sudanese
peoples, and nation building is a difficult process for any
country (in the United States for example, the civil war
killed about 600,000 people after 80 years of indepen-
China believes sanctions
would only bring more
trouble to Darfur.
dence), the international community has to give Sudan
some time to solve this problem. China’s aid targets the root cause of conflict
– poverty. China has aided infrastructure development such as schools, hospitals
and water projects for Sudan. China has already given US$10 million in humanitarian aid and promised to offer more.38
China also insists on using influence without interference – they view respect
as vital to finding solutions. China has used its ties with Sudan to persuade the
Sudanese government to cooperate with the United Nations.39 Since China has
sought to alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people with a solution agreeable
to all parties, the Sudanese government trusts China. Recently, the Sudanese
government has accepted the “hybrid peacekeeping force” in Darfur.40 The turning point for the political process resulted from negotiations with the Sudanese
government based on equality – not coercion or the threat of sanctions.
This principle of noninterference reflects China’s respect for the economic and
political choices that African nations make: a position, it should be noted, that
does not always play to China’s advantage. In fact, during the past 50 years, China has never used its aid commitments to intervene in African internal affairs.41 In
2003, a Canadian oil firm decided to sell its interests in Sudan, which the China
National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) wanted to purchase. However, Khartoum turned the Chinese offer down and awarded the shares to an Indian firm
instead. China respected and accepted the decision without interfering.42
The principle of equality in China’s dealings with other countries is more than
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Policy and Challenges
a slogan. Although today the concept is largely the norm between individuals, it
has never been effectively applied to the realm of international relations. Powerful nations have always made the rules in the global community. Perhaps China’s
practice in Africa challenges this reality and offers an alternative model for interstate behavior.
Mutual Benefit
Both China and Africa have always supported the common development of
politics, economics and other areas. Prior to the 1980s, China backed the anti-colonial struggles and independence movements in Africa. During this period, numerous African nations returned the favor and gave political support to China. In
1971, China regained its seat at the United Nations with the help of 26 votes from
African countries (out of 76 affirmative votes). Chairman Mao Zedong described
it bluntly: “We were brought back into the United Nations by our black African
friends.”43 In the last number of years, China has supported African candidates for
the position of U.N. Secretary-General as well as reform of the Security Council
in favor of greater representation of African nations; while the African countries
have supported China on the issues of human rights and Taiwan.44
However, a reorientation of China’s policy towards Africa has given priority to
economic cooperation. The rich natural resources of Africa help satisfy China’s
increasing demand for raw materials and energy. Conversely, Chinese energy investment in Africa is often accompanied by aid for infrastructure, which helps
to attract more foreign investment in Africa. In Sudan, Chinese companies have
been involved in the oil production industry for roughly a decade. China not only
now imports a great percentage of Sudan’s total oil exports,45 but these companies also help Sudan to establish a complete and viable oil export industry from
exploration, production and refining to sales of crude oil, gasoline and petrochemical products.46 China also shares the benefits of trade and commerce with
Africa. In 2006, trade volume between China and Africa reached a value of $55.5
billion, with African exports to China making up over half of that at $28.8 billion.47
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Li Anshan
Some African scholars acknowledge China’s role in helping African economies
to achieve long-term growth through the principle of mutual benefit.48 One particularly poignant analysis explains, “Unlike Belgium, which built roads solely
for the extraction of resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo, China is
constructing or improving roads that are suitable not only for the transport of
resources but which citizens can also use to travel.”49
Mutual benefit is also reflected in such areas as fair trade and debt reduction.
China will further open its market to Africa by lifting tariffs on the number of
items (from 190 to over 440 before the end of 2009) exported by countries in
Africa that are least developed and have diplomatic relations with China.50 In
addition, when China benefits economically from Africa’s emerging markets, it
reduces and relieves African countries’ debts. At Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in 2006, China waived all debt from governmental interest-free loans due at the end of 2005 for 31 heavily-indebted African countries.51
Technical assistance and cooperation in science and technology with Africa is
an area that has largely been refused by Western countries but is now a rapidly
expanding part of Sino-African relations.52 Recent collaboration between China
and Nigeria to launch a communications satellite, NigSat I, is a groundbreaking project in which China has
provided much of the technology necessary for launch,
China is bringing science
and technology to Africa.
on-orbit service and even the training of Nigerian command and control operators. While Nigeria acquired satellite technology, China also gained from the collaboration by burnishing its credentials as a reliable
player in the international commercial satellite market.53 Additionally, China has
recently sent oil expert and engineer Wang Qiming of Daqin to Sudan to provide
African engineers with new technology that assists with the best-use practices
of seemingly exhausted oil fields.54
Summit Diplomacy
China’s core Africa policy principles have been elucidated by China’s leaders.55 Chairman Mao, while meeting with Asian and African visitors for the first
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time in 1964, declared them close friends.56 Despite changes in leadership and a
transformation of political outlooks, President Hu Jintao, in reinforcing China’s
position in 2006, stated that “China and Africa are good friends, good partners
and good brothers.”57
Major meetings or “summit diplomacy” between Chinese and African heads
of state also clearly reveal China’s core policy principles. Since the 1960s, these
meetings have been a key way to establish direct communication at the highest
levels of government and set the tone of relations and bilateral policies. They
have created mutual trust between heads of state and demonstrated mutual respect between China and African countries. As early as 1963-64, Premier Zhou’s
visits to Africa impacted the structure of international relations as China won the
friendship of many African nations, expanding its diplomatic reach.58 Throughout China’s policy shifts in Africa in the 1980s, the Chinese Premier initiated
more visits to Africa, designed to reassure Africa of China’s committed friendship
despite China’s burgeoning growth and new business partnerships with previous ideological competitors. China stated publicly, “we will not forget old friends
when making new friends, or forget poor friends when making rich friends.”59
Importantly, summit diplomacy has sought to instill confidence in the consistent application of these principles to Sino-African relations. Reinforcing SinoAfrican cooperation on the basis of equality has become a tradition in Chinese
diplomacy. While the West largely neglected Africa after the Cold War, China’s
foreign minister made his visits to African nations the first official stop abroad
in every year from 1991 to 2007.60 These visits have been both symbolic and real
gestures of China’s respect for Africa. Since the turn of the 21st century, two-way
visits have dramatically increased.61 The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
(FOCAC) has also been established, which in addition to its ambitious plans for
Sino-African cooperation, provides a mechanism for routine meetings between
Chinese and African heads of state.
Challenges and Risks
While Africa has been transformed by China’s growing presence on the con-
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Li Anshan
tinent, conflict has also surfaced with expanding interaction, particularly with
labor practices and market strategies, competing commercial and national interests, competition from Western players already established on the continent and
striking a sustainable balance between industry and the environment China has
recognized these challenges and is searching for the most tenable solutions.
Labor Practices and Markets Strategies
With Chinese businesses and manufactured goods flowing into Africa, conflict
over differing labor practices and market strategies has arisen between Chinese
and African enterprises. Chinese entrepreneurs rarely employ local workers in
Africa.62 Rather, they are accustomed to bringing laborers from China and most
management positions are filled by Chinese
nationals. From an economic perspective, it is
more efficient and convenient for Chinese entrepreneurs to recruit skilled workers in Chi-
Employing African workers
entangles Chinese enterprises
in local laws.
na than to train local workers. The former are
often more familiar with the technologies and face fewer language and cultural
obstacles in communication with management. Chinese laborers abroad are also
more compliant to the demanding labor practices Chinese managers insist upon,
and are accustomed to working longer hours, working during local holidays and
working overtime on weekends.63 Employing African workers entangles Chinese
enterprises in local laws to a higher degree than employing Chinese nationals.
There is no doubt that these factors have a dramatic effect on efficiency.
Chinese company practices also lead to discontent among the communities in
which these enterprises operate, who perceive that Chinese companies are not
contributing enough to local economies and employment.64 However, China’s
participation in African markets does help to improve the situation of African
communities. Furthermore, as the role of Chinese enterprises shifts in Africa, the
opportunity to contribute more to African society will emerge. In the past, Chinese enterprises were engaged in finite, short-term infrastructural “aid projects.”
However, profit-driven Chinese businesses are increasingly establishing them-
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Policy and Challenges
selves in African countries, with longer-term prospects. While for the moment
such enterprises hire Chinese workers due to the short-term benefits they provide, as Chinese business continue to expand in Africa, they will shift towards
greater localization of their practices. This change has the potential to eventually
lower production costs and build a virtuous cycle of increased investment by
Chinese companies and benefits to the local community.65
Another source of conflict arises from the success of Chinese goods in African markets, which are often better quality and cheaper than local products.
While African consumers are happy, parallel domestic industries (especially
textile industries) suffer as a result. This conflict is evidenced through two mass
demonstrations in Dakar, one in support of Chinese merchants, the other in opposition.66 Similar protests have occurred in South Africa. However tensions
dissipated when Sino-South African government discussions over the issue led
China to unilaterally impose quotas upon its textile exports in order to allow the
South African producers time to make their products competitive. Solving these
situations has been difficult but includes, in the first place, consultation between
the governments of both sides.67 In this regard, routine multilateral talks between
China and Africa have the potential to play an important role, as the two sides
can rapidly facilitate communication between the conflicting parties, reach an
understanding and diffuse trade frictions before they escalate any further. In addition, China’s willingness to export technologies to Africa will also help local
industries to gradually raise the quantity and quality of production.
Chinese National vs. Corporate Interests
The reality is that the interests of Chinese corporations operating in Africa lie
in maximizing short-term economic gains, while Chinese national interests are
more long term and focus on the overall relationship between China and Africa.
Take the oil industry as an example. The main purpose of Chinese transnational
oil enterprises in Africa is to make profits, which in this case means often selling processed oil back to the country of origin or another country wishing to
purchase it, rather than back to China. In 1999, the Sudan project undertaken
by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) began producing oil with
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Li Anshan
an annual crude production figure over 2 million tons. However, only 266,000
tons were imported to China.68 Although CNPC is a state holding company, its
pursuit of profit is not necessarily coincident with China’s pursuit of national
The view that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) can be equated with the state
is largely outdated.69 Government and SOEs must compromise in order to maximize benefits for their increasingly divergent interests. China’s inability to control the actions of its SOEs in Africa has been the subject of intense criticism by
the West and is a significant cause of Western concerns about China’s rising influence in Africa. This censure is unreasonable when the diverging interests and
increasingly distant relationship between the government and these companies
is taken into account.
Western Suspicions
The presence of Western powers has been felt in Africa – from the colonial
legacy and their geo-strategic influence during the Cold War, to the current advantage that their transnational corporations hold on the continent. Western
countries still consider Africa in terms of their “spheres of influence” and China
is usually considered as an “external player” in the region.70 As the Chinese presence in Africa spreads and deepens, it is increasingly likely that conflicts between
Chinese and Western interests will emerge, particularly in the competition to
secure energy supplies.
Some Western analysts have criticized China’s developing relations with Africa as based purely on securing oil supplies and other natural resources,71 which
has led to claims that China supports authoritarian regimes at the expense of
“democracy” and “human rights.”72 Sino-African relations were established long
before China’s demand for raw materials caused it to shift from a net oil exporter
to importer in 1993. Also, while China imports oil from Africa, it exports electromechanical and high-tech products that satisfy critical needs in Africa, creating a rough equilibrium in the economic and trade relations between China and
Africa. The oil drilling and exploration rights China has obtained in Africa have
been obtained through international bidding mechanisms in accordance with inChina Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
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ternational market practices, posing no “threat” to any particular country. Rights
to oilfields in Sudan and Nigeria were purchased by Chinese companies after the
withdrawal of competitors.73
China’s demand for raw materials and energy enables the rich resources of Africa to be fully utilized, benefiting both Chinese purchasers and African suppliers. Chinese demand has stimulated raw material prices, increasing the income
of resource-rich African countries and accelerating African development. For example, Nigeria has paid off its outstanding loans;74 Sudan has gone from being a
Profit-driven Chinese businesses
with longer term prospects are establishing themselves in Africa.
net oil importer to exporter. The investment of
over 800 Chinese enterprises has promoted African industries and is breaking the longstanding hold that the West has had over trade in
commodities between Africa and the rest of the
world. Such investment is also enhancing the autonomy of African countries
in production, sales and investment, which offers Africa more opportunities in
terms of market options, investment partners, product prices, etc. Nevertheless,
Sino-African trade in resources has the potential to help Africa win greater and
truer independence.
As for the criticism that China is dealing with corrupt African regimes, a number of issues are at stake. First, the limits and norms of the international system only allow China to deal with sovereign states through their governments.
Second, China has its own problems of human rights and corruption and therefore feels it does not have the right to criticize others. All governments, Western
included, as well as international financial institutions, have corrupt elements.
Rather than preaching good governance to others, they would gain far more
credibility and avoid the label of hypocrisy if they first tackled their own corrupt
practices.76 Third, each nation may have a different judgment and opinion of “corruption.” China does not necessarily accept the naming and shaming of certain
African regimes as corrupt by Western standards.
In its relations with Western powers in Africa, China needs both courage
and wisdom – the courage to withstand Western criticism of its African policy
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Li Anshan
and the wisdom to fully engage with Africa while at the same time reassuring
Western powers that such acts will not contradict their interests. The West and
China have common interests in Africa regarding economic development and environmental protection, for example. China, Africa and Western countries must
discuss effective methods for increasing cooperation on the continent together.
Creating mechanisms of mutual trust and improving dialogue is the best way to
prevent potential conflicts between China and the West over Africa.
Sustainable Development
China has now realized the importance of comprehensive development, not
just GDP growth. While China’s past 30 years of rapid economic growth have led
to unprecedented achievements, its negative effects are also becoming apparent.
They include poor workplace safety, a deteriorating environment and a deficient social
safety system, all of which must be balanced
against sustainable economic growth. And,
Chinese investment is breaking the
hold the West has had over trade
between Africa and the world.
worse, some harmful and damaging Chinese
practices are making their way to Africa. If China transplants these problems
to Africa they will not only affect the healthy development of Sino-African relations, but also the future well-being of African people.77
Because a culture of corporate responsibility has yet to mature in China, many
of its unsafe production methods have appeared in Africa.78 Unsafe working conditions in China lead to the deaths of 320 Chinese people each day.79 In 2005, a
blast at an explosives factory on the premises of a copper mine in Zambia killed
47 people; both the mine and the explosives factory were owned by Chinese enterprises.80 Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Congress
of China, Cheng Siwei, has harshly criticized Chinese enterprises, warning that
a lack of social responsibility toward the communities they are working in will
threaten their reputation and even their viability in African markets.81
Another issue, perhaps the most pressing in China now, is the environmental implications of China’s rapid economic development. Some progress is being
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made as the Chinese government works to standardize the behavior of Chinese
enterprises overseas through the development of environmental and corporate
laws.82 Through these regulations, companies working overseas must factor social responsibility into their business plans and the Chinese government will
have a closer supervisory role over them and an approval system for project applications. Successful implementation of these regulations will require government-to-government cooperation between China and African nations. The action plan agreed upon at the China-Africa Summit stresses the critical need for
both sides to enhance communication and cooperation on environmental protection. While a good beginning, concrete steps to implement this are what is really
needed, which are still absent to date. The interests of the local society must be
considered adequately and only through establishing good relations with African
people can win-win results be guaranteed for both Chinese enterprises and local
A Promising Future
China can enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation by continuing to use
its unique multilateral channels with Africa, as well as continuing to use international mechanisms, such as United Nations peacekeeping operations, to secure
Africa’s future. China can also use such routes to minimize and prevent conflict
both today and in the future. China should exchange information and promote
full and flexible consultations with other groups affected by its relations with
In order to manage the growing tensions resulting from the closer economic
relationship between China and Africa, China must increase the frequency and
depth of consultations both with African nations and other nations with interests in Africa. These tensions are most acute in the context of energy. China can
help to reduce tensions resulting from competition for energy resources in Africa
by building mutual trust in relations with other emerging countries (India and
Brazil, for example), the European Union nations, the Group of Eight powers
and international organizations. China should also initiate dialogue with a view
to establishing an energy security mechanism on the basis of enhancing joint re-
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Li Anshan
search and development of alternative energy sources.
China’s aid program will also require cooperation with other aid donors such
that resources are utilized in the most effective way possible and for the maximum benefit of Africa is attained. The international effort of research and development related to AIDS and malaria control also provides broad prospects for
medical cooperation and coordination between China and the United States or
European countries, in Africa.83 In order to achieve this, reliable mechanisms for
collaboration based on mutual trust, should make a priority to help Africa.84
Sino-African cooperation has played a positive and multifaceted role in Africa. However, China’s expanded presence in Africa brings new challenges for
China’s policies on the continent. China’s policies will naturally lag behind the
rapidly evolving economic, social and security environment in Africa and China
will need to adjust accordingly. Although committed to meeting these fluid challenges, China will never waver in its principles of treating Africa with equality,
respect and mutual development.
This is a revised version of my speech at the IFIC-JICA Seminar on “China’s Aid to
Africa – the Beijing Summit and its Follow-up,” Jan. 29, 2007, Japan International Cooperation
Agency, Tokyo, Japan.
Segal, Gerald. “China and Africa,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science, Vol. 519 No.1 (January 1992) p.126.
“CSIS Prospectus: Opening a Sino-U.S. Dialogue on Africa, 2003;” Muekalia, Domingos
Jardo, “Africa and China’s Strategic Partnership,” African Security Review, Vol. 13 No. 1
(2004) p.8.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, China’s African Policy,
published in January 2006.
Duyvendad, J. J. L., China’s Discovery of Africa. London: 1949; Filesi, Teobaldo, China and
Africa in the Middle Ages, Frank Cass Publisher, 1972; Snow, Philip. The Star Raft: China’s
Encounter with Africa, (London: 1988); Wenkuan,M. and M. Fanren, The Discovery of Ancient
China in Africa. (Beijing: Forbidden City Press, 1987); Fuwei, Shen. China and Africa. Beijing:
(The Commercial Press, 1990) Zhouchang, A. and M. Tao, The History of the Relations between
China and Africa. (Shanghai: East China Normal UP, 1996); Anshan, Li The History of Chinese
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Policy and Challenges
in Africa. (Beijing: Chinese Overseas Publishing House, 2000). For Chinese understanding
and study of Africa, see Anshan,Li. “African Studies in China in the Twentieth Century:
A Historiographical Survey,” African Studies Review, Vol. 48 No. 1 (April 2005) pp.59-87.
Ross. Robert (ed.), China, the United States, and the Soviet Union: Tripolarity and Policy Making
in the Cold War, (New York, 1993) pp.11-61.
Selection of Mao Zedong’s Thought of Foreign Affairs, ed. by The Party Literature Research
Center of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, (Beijing: The Party Literature Press and World Affairs Press, 1994) pp. 403-13,
416-20, 463-7, 490-2, 497-502, 526-8, 587-8, 600-1.
Qu Xing, Fifty Years of the Foreign Affairs of China, (Jiangsu Renmin Press, 2000) pp.375376.
Congolese Labor Party asked China Communist Party (CCP) to build inter-party
relations to promote cooperation in 1967, 1968 and 1969. The CCP refused for the reason
that it was not a communist party. Partido Frelimo had been in contact with the CCP
and its Chair had visited China many times. He also proposed to build inter-party
relations, but the CCP refused for ideological reasons. Later Partido Frelimo invited the
CCP to attend its Third Central Committee, but also failed. Their relations did not start
to develop normally until 1981.
Cornelissen, S. and I. Taylor, “The political economy of China and Japan’s relationship
with Africa: a comparative perspective,” The Pacific Review, Vol. 13 No. 4 (2000) p.616;
Brautigam, Deborah, Chinese Aid and African Development, Macmillan Press, 1998, pp. 175195.
Ogunsanwo, Alaba, China’s Policy in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 1974) pp.180240; Barnouin B. and Y. Changgen, Chinese Foreign Policy during the Cultural Revolution,
(London, 1998) pp.75-78; Wang Qinmei, “The Up and Downs in Sino-African Relations;”
Long Xiangyang, “The Preliminary Probe to the Sino-Africa Relations from 1966 to 1969,”
in China and Africa ed. by Center for African Studies, Peking University, (2000) pp59-71,
Li Jiasong, (ed.), Big Events in the History of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China Vol.
2, (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2001) pp.310-311; Huang Zhen, “Paving the Road of
Friendship to the Awakening Africa, Endless Longing,” in Endless Remembrance (The Party
Literature Press, 1987) pp.364-373.
The proportion of China’s expenses for foreign aid to financial expenses increased
from 1970 to 1973, from 3.5 percent in 1970, to 5.1 percent in 1971, 6.65 percent in 1972, and
to 7.2 percent in 1973. During this period, there were 66 countries that received China’s
aid, the amount of which accounted for two-thirds of China’s total to countries of the
Third Word. “Studies on Foreign Relations from 1966 to 1976,” China and the World, Issue
5, (2005).
Fifty Years of Friendly Relations between China and Africa. (Beijing: World Affairs Press,
Li Anshan, Studies on African Nationalism. (Beijing: China International Radio Press,
2004), pp. 291-300; Li Anshan, “Africa in the Perspective of Globalization: development,
aid and cooperation,” West Asia and Africa, Issue 7, (2007).
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Li Anshan
Yearbook of China’s Foreign Economic Relations And Trade 1994. (Beijing: China Social Press,
1994) p. 62.
Li Anshan, “On the Adjustments and Changes of China’s Foreign Policy to Africa,”
West Asia and Africa, Issue 8, (2006).
Namely, the principle of equality, mutual benefit, efficiency, diversity and mutual
development, People’s Daily, Jan. 15, 1983.
The description of The 12th CPC Assembly,
“CCP’s relations with Asian and Latin American parties are strengthened,” People’s
Daily, Sept. 8, 1982.
Jiang Guanghua, Historical Recording of Visiting Foreign Parties (Beijing: World Affairs
Press, 1997) pp. 191, 451, 667, 670-1; Li Liqing, “The History and Current Situation of SinoAfrican Communications,” in Western Asia and Africa, (Issue 3, 2006); “The profitable try
on deepening the Sino-African relations,” Modern World, (Issue 6, 2002); Zhong Weiyun,
“Current situation of African parties and the communication between CCP and African
parties,” China and Africa, ed. by Center for African Studies, Peking University, pp. 129142.
The former Party Secretary of Beijing, Jia Qinglin, visited Uganda and promoted
coffee trade cooperation in 2000; the former Party Secretary of Shandong Province, Wu
Guanzheng, the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province (2004) in 2001; Zhang Dejiang,
and the Party Secretary of Hubei Province (2005), Yu Zhengsheng, visited Africa, and
the economic and trade delegation signed many cooperation agreement with African
Jiang Guanghua, Historical Recording of Visiting Foreign Parties, (Beijing: World Affairs
Press, 1997) pp. 130, 303-5, 442-443, 621-622. China trained and educated 2,675 millitary
intellectuals for Africa between 1955 and 1977. Weinstein, W. and T.H. Henriksen, (ed.),
Soviet and Chinese Aid to African Nations, (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1980) pp. 102-111.
For Africa’s different response to the ideology of USSR and China, see Ottaway,
Marina, “Soviet Marxism and African Socialism,” Journal of Modern African Studies,
(September 1978) pp.477-487.
Chazan, Naomi et al, Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa, (CO: Boulder, Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 1992) p.410.
Mahamat, Adam, “Africa starting to rise in partnership with China,” China Daily,
North American Edition, (New York: Jan. 13, 2006) p.4.
Hu Yaobang, the once General Secretary of CPC, pointed out in 1982: “According
to historical experience and economic situation, the form of “giving as a gift” in foreign
economic aid is harmful to both sides” in Selection of Important Literature after the Third Plenary
Meeting of the 11th Central Committee of CCP Vol. 2, ed. by The Party Literature Research
Center of the CPC Central Committee.
Li Anshan, “On the Adjustments and Changes of China’s Foreign Policy to Africa,”
West Asia and Africa, (Issue 8, 2006).
Lin Mei,“The Reform and Practice of Foreign Economic Aid: Conference of Exchanging
Experience on promoting the discount government loans in foreign economic aid,”
International Economic Cooperation, (Issue 11, 1997). 16
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Policy and Challenges
He Xiaowei, “Further Promoting the Reform of the Way of Foreign Aid and Abiding
by the Agreement Foreign Aid,” Yearbook of China’s Foreign Economic Relations And Trade
1997/98, (China Economics Press/China Economic Herald Press, 1997) p.75.
Qu Xing, Fifty Years of the Foreign Affairs of China. (Jiangsu Renmin Press, 2000) pp.375376.
“The Chinese principles and position of human rights,” People Daily, Apr. 3, 2006.
“African Union defends Mugabe,” The Guardian, Jan. 25, 2005.
" Darfur: A 'Plan B' to Stop Genocide?", US Department of State, Apr. 11, 2007. For more
information on the list of declarations of genocide in Darfur, see
wiki/International_response_to_the_Darfur_conflict Declarations_of_genocide.
Eisenman, Joshua, “Zimbabwe: China’s African Ally”, China Brief, Vol..5, No.15, July
5, 2005, pp.9-11; Yitzhak Shichor, “Sudan: China’s Outpost in Africa”, China Brief, Vol.5,
No. 21, Oct. 13, 2005, pp. 9-11; Eisenman J. and J. Kurlantzick, “China’s Africa Strategy,”
Current History, May 2006, p.223.
“China Urges Patience on Sudan, Opposes Sanctions,” Reuters, May 31, 2007.
See UNEP, Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, 2007, p. 329, http://postconflict.; John Utec, the Sudanese Ambassador to the
United States, provided the same explanation in his speech at Press Club at the end of
May, 2007.
“Confrontation over Darfur ‘will lead us nowhere’,” China Daily, July 27, 2007, http://
“What Kind the Darfur Issue Is: a special interview with the special representative of
Chinese government,” Chutian Metropolis Daily, July 8, 2007.
“Sudan government deals with Darfur issue with a light pack,” Xinhua News Agency,
Li Anshan, “Africa in the perspective of Globalization: development, aid and
cooperation,” West Asia and Africa, (Issue 7, 2007).
Sautman, B. and Y. Hairong, “Wind from the East: China and Africa’s Development,”
paper presented at “China’s New Role in Africa and Global South”, Shanghai, May 15-17,
2007, p.3.
Weng Ming, “Person Selected Right Before the Journey: Lord Qiao’s first visit to the
UN,” World Affairs: Diplomats in the UN, ed. by Fu Hao and Li Tongcheng, (Beijing: Chinese
Overseas Publishing House, 1995), p. 9.
Qian Qichen, Ten Notes on Diplomacy, (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2003), p.255.
In 2006, China took 64 percent of Sudan’s oil exports. See Pan, Esther, “China, Africa,
and Oil,” Council for Foreign Relations.
“Revelations on China Oil Project in Sudan,” Oilnews Online,
“Special Report at the Year-end: The remarkable achievement of Sino-African
economic and trade cooperation in 2006,” Ministry of Commerce of China, http://www.
Davies, M. and L. Corkin, “China’s Market Entry into Africa’s Construction Sector:
The case of Angola,” Paper presented to the international symposium “China-Africa
Shared Development”, Beijing, Dec. 19, 2006, p. 10.
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Li Anshan
Marks, Toya, “Want’s China’s Investment in Africa?” Business Enterprise, (New York,
March 2007) p.34
“Eight steps to boost China-Africa partnership,” Xinhua News Agency, Jan. 30,2007
China has remitted a total debt of $10.9 billion of 21 African countries. Xinhua News
Agency, Oct. 17, 2006.
In the international conference “China’s New Role in Africa and Global South”(May
17, Shanghai), a Kenyan student pointed out that the United States. has been doing
business with Nigeria for decades, it has never thought about launching the satellite for
Nigeria. China did it, although for the government, it will definitely benefit Nigerians as
“China launched satellite for Nigeria,” Xinhua News Agency, May 14, 2007.
“Wang Qimin is Welcomed by Sudanese,” China Petroleum Daily, June 26, 2007.
“The Sino-African relations comments of Chinese leaders,” Today China, http://www.
Li Jiasong (ed.), Big Events in the History of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China, pp.
432-3, 438.
“Good Friends, Good Partners and Good Brothers,” People’s Daily Online, June 22,
Brian Horton, Chief diplomatic correspondent of Reuters, believes that Zhou Enlai’s
visit is “a big move for China to expand China’s presence and influence in Africa,” and “a
significant development in Asian-African political relations and the relations between
the East and the West.” The Christian Science Monitor published an article, “Beijing
focuses on Africa” on Dec 9, 1963, stating that this visit “has long-term significance”
and “helps to confirm the remote but mutual-beneficial relations between Beijing and
burgeoning Africa” and “this relation may reposition the diplomacy of countries in the
international community in the coming ten years.” AFP and other European media
also said that Zhou Enlai’s visit to Africa is the start of China’s important diplomatic
offensive to Africa. See Lu Ting’en, “The Example of Summit Diplomacy between China
and African Premier Zhou Enlai’s first visit to Africa”, China and Africa, Africa Research
Center of Beijing University ed., (Beijing University Press, 2000) p.5.
Yearbook of China’s Foreign Economic Relations And Trade 1986 (Beijing: Outlook Press, 1986)
p. 47.
Zhang Kunsheng, “Journals of the African Trip,” Observation and Reflection, (Issue 5,
In the year 2000, five national leaders of African countries visited China, and five
Chinese counterparts visited Africa; between 2002 and 2004, 30 national leaders of
African countries visited China.
“The opportunities and risks for textile enterprises to invest in Africa,”,
Nov. 7, 2006,
“Chinese in Africa,” Southern Weekly, July 26, 2007.
Brookes, Peter. “Into Africa: China’s Grab for Influence and Oil,” Institute for
International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, Feb. 9, 2007, http://www.heritage.
For example, the Chinese oil company is improving its practice in Sudan, which was
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Policy and Challenges
praised by both the Sudanese government and people. “CNPC is on the Internationalized
Road with Win-Win,” Economic Daily, July 13, 2007.
From a discussion with American scholar D.Z. Osborn, and a conversation with Togo
journalist Adama Gaye in the seminar “China in Africa: Geopolitical and Geoeconomic
Considerations” held by Harvard University, from May 31 -June 2.
In the seminar “China-Africa Link” held by The Hong Kong University of Science and
Technology on Nov 11-12, 2006, a South African scholar stated that it is certain South
Africa could benefit from the Chinese government’s decision to reduce its textile exports
to South Africa, but it still had to deal with the challenges posed by textiles from Malaysia
and Vietnam. The key to the textile problem for South Africa is not to cut the import of
Chinese textiles, but to strengthen the competitive age of South African textiles.
Zha Daojiong, “China’s Oil Interests in Africa- An International Political Question.”
Studies of International Politics, (Issue 4, 2006) p.56.
Su-jian, H. and Y. Jing, “The Nature, Objectives and Social Responsibility of Stateowned Enterprises,” China Industrial Economy 2006, No.2, pp. 68-76.
Berger, Bernt, “China’s Engagement in Africa: Can the EU Sit Back?” South African
Journal of International Affairs, 13:1 (Summer/Autumn, 2006), pp.115-127; Lyman, Princeton,
“China’s Involvement in Africa: A View from the US,” ibid, pp.129-138.
Giry, Stephanie, “China’s Africa Strategy,” pp.19-23; Lyman, Princeton, “China’s
Rising Role in Africa,” July 21, 2005,
Eisenman, Joshua, “Zimbabwe: China’s African Ally”, China Brief, Vol. 5, No. 15, July
5, 2005, pp. 9-11.
“Nigeria gives China oil exploration licences after auction,” Agence France-Presse, May
19, 2006.
Li Anshan, “China-African Relations in the Discourse on China’s Rise,” World
Economics and Politics, (Issue 11, 2006).
Naidu, S. and M. Davies, “China Fuels its Future with Africa’s Riches,” South African
Journal of International Affairs, 13:2 (2006) pp.69-83.
Bossard, Peter, “China’s Role in Financing African Infrastructure,”, Paper presented
at “China’s New Role in Africa and Global South.” Shanghai, May 15-17, 2007.
China’s management of Sudan oilfield is a good example. Sudanese network has
pointed out the effect of environmental benefits in the latest issue.
“African Investment Became under Supervision,” Oct 8, 2006, http://news2.eastmoney.
Cheng Siwei, “China can not accept the theory of capitalism without morality
concerns”, China Economics Weekly, (Issue 5, 2007) p. 13.
“Blast at Zambia Copper Mine Kills 47,” The New Zealand Herald, Apr. 21, 2005,
Cheng Siwei, “China can not accept the theory of capitalism without morality
concerns,” China Economics Weekly, Issue 5, 2007, p. 13.
In the past three years, the Chinese government has put into effect a series of laws
and regulations to enhance the management of foreign aid and foreign labor service
cooperation projects, such as the Measures for the Accreditation of Qualifications
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007
Li Anshan
of Enterprises Undertaking the Construction of the Complete Foreign-aid Projects
(2004), Measures for the Accreditation of Qualifications of Projects for Foreign-aid
Materials (2004), Administrative Regulations on Operation Qualifications of Foreign
Cooperation of Labor Service. Currently, the government is working on the Provisions of
the Management of Foreign Contracted Projects and the Provisions of the Management
of Foreign Cooperation of Labor Service and will put them into effect soon.
Li Anshan, “China’s Engagement in Africa: Singular Interest or Mutual Benefit?” Paper
presented at Expert Roundtable Meeting, “Resource Governance in Africa in the 21st
Century,” Berlin, March 26-28, 2007; Stith, Charles, “Africa-Sino Relations: A Summary
Assessment from an American Prospective,” International Politics Quarterly, 2006:4 (102),
pp. 21-31.
China and Europe, as well as China and the United States are trying to build this
mutual trust system. CSIS’s report on the relations between China and Africa in 2007
also addressed the possibility and necessity for China and Africa to build bilateral and
multilateral cooperation as well as cooperation between governments, enterprises and
non-governmental organizations. See Gill, B. Huang, C., and J. S. Morrison, “China’s
Expanding Role in Africa: Implications for the United States,” (CSIS, January, 2007). This
is a report released after its delegations returned from exchanging opinions with China
on the relations among China, Africa, and the United States at the end of last year.
China Security Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007

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